Chances are you have seen them on television. The Vasquez Rocks were frequently used as a set for foreign planets in multiple iterations of the Star Trek franchise. If you have never seen an episode of Star Trek, you might recognize the rocks from Blazing Saddles, Planet of the Apes (2001), Hail Caesar!, or any number of films featuring desert scenes. The park’s rugged rocks jut up from dusty sands and cacti, emblematic of a generic desert landscape—perfect for filmmakers and directors looking for a budget Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Tibet, or foreign planet.
Located about 30 minutes north of Los Angeles, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a popular budget spot for desert scenes in Hollywood films and television. The wild west character of these rocks is not an image out of nowhere; the name “Vasquez” was inherited from the notorious bandit Tiburcio Vásquez, who used these rocks as a hideout from law enforcement in the 1870s. Its use as a film locations has only enriched the history and geography of the site over time. They bring Trekkies and film buffs to the park who in turn get a miniature lesson in the history of the American west.
The unique rock formations were created from rapid erosion and tectonic shifts 25 million years ago. The area was inhabited by the Tataviam indigenous people, who were later colonized by Spanish settlers. Los Angeles County began to acquire acreage of the park in 1971 and has continued to expand the natural area until 2001. It is now recognized as a historical monument commemorating Vasquez and the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Arena.” The park is open to the public and is still a popular filming location.